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Playing No-Limit Texas Hold ’Em

By July 2010Comments

Doyle Brunson
Photograph by Rob Gracie

NAME: Doyle Brunson | AGE: 76 | HOMETOWN: Longworth | QUALIFICATIONS: Winner of ten World Series of Poker bracelets, including back-to-back Main Event championships in 1976 and 1977 / Author of the best-selling strategy book Super/System and the autobiography The Godfather of Poker / Named the most influential poker player in the world by Bluff Magazine in 2006

• Poker is more about people than it is about odds. I was terrible at advanced math, but I understood people. You can learn more about a man playing poker with him for an hour than you can working with him for a week.

• You have to understand that the way your opponents play dictates the way that you should play. I used to be aggressive at the table. But today’s players take that to another level, which borders on being ridiculous. So I’ve made adjustments and gone back to a conservative A, B, C kind of approach—with good results.

• I didn’t have enough money to pay my tuition at Hardin-Simmons, in Abilene, so I started playing poker. That’s how I made my way through graduate school. But you were treated like a second-class citizen, because people equated being a poker player with being a gangster. I knew some folks who would cross the street when they saw me coming. Today those same people will come out to Las Vegas and call me up. They don’t remember those things, but I’ve never forgotten.

• When I was on the circuit in Texas in the fifties, the games were rough. I saw one guy at the table get shot and killed. Later, two other guys died of heart attacks in front of me.

• Not long after I turned pro, when I was in my early twenties, I played in Houston against one of the top players in the world at the time, Johnny Moss. I thought Johnny was drawing at a straight, as was I, and another guy had the top pair. Johnny made a big bet at the end of the pot—we had both missed, by the way—and I called him with jack high. That forced out the guy with the top pair, and I won that pot, just like I had figured it. That was the hand that first set me apart.

• Both times that I won the World Series of Poker Main Event, my winning hand was a ten-deuce. What should you do if you get that hand? Throw it away every time.

• People say that the field is so much better today than it was in the seventies and eighties. I don’t think that’s true. Back then everyone from top to bottom was a seasoned pro.

• Those players who perform for television during a tournament take away from the dignity of the game. They’re getting their five minutes in the sun by the way they dress or how they behave, but it aggravates me. They’re trying to be entertainers. I don’t consider myself to be an entertainer. I’m trying to be a good, solid poker player.

• The mark of a great player is that he has tremendous recall. He can remember what happened in a similar situation against a similar opponent from years earlier.

• I don’t know how many hands I’ve played, but they tell me that these kids today have played more hands than I have because they spend so much time online. Yet the thrill of poker has never worn off. I still get an adrenaline rush when I look at my hole cards.

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